Kurt Kerns, Attorney at Law
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What's a felony murder charge?

In Kansas, and most other states, there is a doctrine known as the Felony Murder rule that means if someone is killed during the commission of certain crimes, anyone who participated in that crime may be charged with felony murder, even if they are not directly involved in the killing.

A recent case in Wichita involved a man who had allegedly "set up" a marijuana deal that resulted in the death of one individual. The man was charged with felony murder because the sale of marijuana is classified by the Kansas legislature as inherently dangerous felony.

According to one version of the incident, the defendant helped a former high school friend find someone to sell him some marijuana. The defendant did not know that this friend was now a gang member, looking for a robbery target.

The defendant's attorney argued that the crime that resulted in the murder was the robbery contemplated by the gang members, not the sale of marijuana, and therefore he should never have been charged with felony murder.

What makes this case even stranger is the fact that marijuana sales were only added to the statutory list of inherently dangerous felonies by the Kansas legislature after the murder in question occurred. The charge was then retroactively applied to the defendant. Retroactive application of a criminal offense is typically unconstitutional, as an ex post facto law, which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

It seems strange that Kansas prosecutors would reach out for such a tenuous case involving marijuana, when the adjacent state of Colorado has legalized marijuana sales.

A jury apparently agreed that there were problems with the prosecution's case, as they found the defendant not guilty.

Source: kake.com, "Kyler Carriker found not guilty of felony murder," July 30, 2015

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